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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Acorn’s Star-Studded Fall DVDs Include Gillian Anderson, Foyle’s War 7, Guy Pearce, Laura Linney and Helen Mirren--Latest Release Calendar

“Acorn Media, chief curators of the best Brit TV” –TIME Magazine

The upcoming, star-studded DVDs/Blu-rays from Best British TV specialist Acorn feature several highly-entertaining new shows, including new mysteries from the universally acclaimed FOYLE’S WAR (“A triumph from start to finish”), hit BBC thriller THE FALL starring Gillian Anderson (“the closest that television has come to capturing the taut alchemy of Prime Suspect”); and new Aussie crime drama JACK IRISH starring Guy Pearce (“intelligent, hard-boiled thriller”).

Additionally, Acorn has the influential miniseries TALES OF THE CITY: 20th Anniversary Edition starring Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, Paul Gross, Billy Campbell, and Thomas Gibson; as well as the U.S. debuts of P.G. Wodehouse’s BLANDINGS, Series 1, a new witty BBC series starring Timothy Spall and Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous); and WAR AND PEACE, a sumptuous international production of Tolstoy’s masterpiece starring Clémence Poésy, Malcolm McDowell and Brenda Blethyn.

Acorn also has the Blu-ray debuts of Helen Mirren’s iconic series PRIME SUSPECT: The Complete Collection and Agatha Christie’s POIROT, Series 7 & 8; as well as two value-priced collections of Britain’s highest-rated TV drama, NEW TRICKS COLLECTION: Season 1-5, and the addictive 1970s PBS series THE PALLISERS: 40th Anniversary Edition.

To watch the trailers for Tales of the City, Foyle’s War, The Fall, and more, please visit the “Recent Uploads” section on Acorn’s You Tube page here.

Documentary specialist Athena has several fascinating releases, including the U.S. debuts of David Starkey’s MUSIC & MONARCHY, a “magnificent” 2013 documentary, and the “first-rate” THE DARK AGES: An Age of Light; as well as “One of the most interesting, refreshing and thought-provoking series you can find anywhere” with the star-studded documentary BRAINWAVE.

For more info on these releases, please see the detailed Aug 27 – Oct. 15, 2013 release calendar below.

Acorn (British TV) and Athena (Documentaries) DVD Release Calendar

August 27:

Tales of the City: 20th Anniversary Collection – “One of the 10 best miniseries” (Entertainment Weekly) and “Uncommonly fine television” (The New York Times) – The influential PBS miniseries returns with SDH subtitles, exclusive footage, and more. Deftly chronicling the quest for love and connection across a spectrum of sexual experiences, the Peabody Award-winning miniseries features a star-studded cast including Oscar® winner Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), Oscar® nominee Laura Linney (The Big C, John Adams, The Savages), Gemini winner Paul Gross (Slings & Arrows), Billy Campbell (Once and Again), and Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg). Based on the groundbreaking novel by Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City follows a colorful cast of characters living at 28 Barbary Lane in anything-goes 1970s San Francisco. The series received universal acclaim when it debuted in 1994, hailed as “a brilliant evocation of a time and place” (Los Angeles Times), and remains a television landmark. (DVD 2-disc set)

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray Debut) – “A perfect marriage of astoundingly talented actress and brilliantly conceived character” (USA Today) – Blu-ray debut of the iconic, universally acclaimed police drama starring Oscar® winner Helen Mirren in her iconic, Emmy®-winning role. Mirren stars as Detective Jane Tennison, “one of the great character creations of our time” (The Washington Post), in this revolutionary police drama broadcast on PBS to universal acclaim and more than 20 major international awards, including seven Emmys® (three-time winner of "Outstanding Miniseries"), eight BAFTAs, and a Peabody. Guest stars include: Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary). The Blu-ray 7-Disc set includes nine feature-length mysteries in high-definition as well as a 50-minute behind-the-scenes special, featurette, and more.

Missions that Changed the War: German’s Last Ace (Athena, DVD Debut) – Narrated by Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, CSI: NY), the compelling documentary explores the downfall of Nazi Germany. Through original footage, expert military analyses, and never-before-seen interviews with the participants, the riveting documentary series tells the story of three fighter pilots who played decisive roles in the aerial battles over Germany. Seen on the Military Channel (DVD 2-disc set)

Sept. 3:

Blandings, Series 1 (U.S. debut) – “An absolute delight” (Daily Mail) – The hilarious new adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s celebrated stories stars Timothy Spall and Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous). This 2013 BBC series follows the foibles of an eccentric aristocrat, his peculiar family, and the ramshackle ancestral home they share. The series marks the first television adaptation of the beloved Blandings Castle stories since the 1960s. Wodehouse, a perennially bestselling author and creator of the beloved Jeeves and Wooster, continues to gain new fans. (DVD 2-Disc set, 6 episodes)

Sept. 17:

Brainwave (Athena, DVD Debut) – “One of the most interesting, refreshing and thought-provoking series you can find anywhere” (The Huffington Post) – Artists and scientists discuss the mysteries of the human mind in this engaging and illuminating series. Launched by the Rubin Museum of Art in 2008 and now in its sixth edition, Brainwave pairs celebrities from many walks of life with leading neuroscientists and other experts to explore how the human mind works. The series has not aired on television, and this collection features some of the most interesting participants, including superstar chef Mario Batali, author R.L. Stine (Goosebumps series), Oscar® nominee Debra Winger, comedian Lewis Black, and influential punk rocker Henry Rollins. (DVD 3-disc set, 10 episodes)

Sept. 24:

Foyle’s War, Set 7 (DVD and Blu-ray) – “Like a gift from the gods” (The New York Times) and “A triumph from start to finish” (The Wall Street Journal) – The universally acclaimed hit series returns with three new mysteries available on television, streaming, and home video. One of PBS’s most popular and highly acclaimed programs, Foyle’s War premieres its new season on MASTERPIECE Mystery! on PBS on Sept. 15, 22, and 29. RLJ Entertainment’s proprietary digital channel Acorn TV, the first British TV focused streaming service in North America at www.Acorn.TV, will offer each new episode the day after it airs on PBS, as well as all previous episodes for catch-up viewing. Additionally, the new episodes debut on DVD and, for the first time, Blu-ray from Acorn on Sept. 24; featuring the complete U.K. broadcast edition and nearly two hours of bonus features. Watch the trailer. As the series returns, World War II is over, but the Cold War simmers in 1946 London. DCS Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) has retired from police work when Britain’s secret intelligence service compels him to join its ranks. Reunited with his former colleague, newlywed Sam Wainwright (Honeysuckle Weeks), Foyle faces new—but no less deadly—threats in the world of spies and counterintelligence. (Blu-ray 2-Disc Set, 3-DVD Boxed Set)

War and Peace (U.S. Debut) – “A lavish adaptation of the Tolstoy classic” (The Guardian) – A must-see for costume drama fans, this lavish adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic features a stellar ensemble cast, including Clémence Poésy (Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter series, October’s Last Love opposite Michael Caine), two-time Oscar®-nominee Brenda Blethyn (Vera), Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) and Ken Duken (Inglourious Basterds, The Sinking of the Laconia). The gripping tale of passion and politics brings the timeless epic to life as it follows a circle of aristocrats who find their glittering world crumbling as war threatens imperial Russia. Filled with exquisite costumes, beautiful sets, and outstanding production values, the program debuted internationally in 2007 but was never available in the U.S. until debuting on Acorn TV in July 2013 (DVD 2-disc set, 4 episodes).

New Tricks Collection: Seasons 1-5 – The first five seasons of one of Britain’s highest-rated TV dramas features additional footage not seen on public television. Featuring brilliant casts, top guest stars, deft writing, and an irresistible blend of compelling drama and dry humor, this long-running, award-winning British series follows a motley crew of semi-retired detectives as they investigate cold cases. The BBC recently premiered its tenth season, and New Tricks has enjoyed ongoing broadcast exposure in North America on select public television stations. The series stars Amanda Redman, Dennis Waterman, Alun Armstrong, and James Bolam (DVD 15-Disc Collector’s Edition, 39 episodes).

Oct. 1:

Jack Irish Set 1 (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) – “Intelligent, hard-boiled thriller” (The Wall Street Journal) and “Enormously engaging” (The Washington Post) – Emmy®-winning actor Guy Pearce (The King’s Speech, Memento, Iron Man 3) stars as the brooding antihero of Australian writer Peter Temple’s award-winning crime novels. In these two feature-length movies, Jack is reeling in the wake of his wife’s murder. The former lawyer has reinvented himself as a part-time private investigator and debt collector with a knack for getting into trouble. Broadcast in Australia on ABC1 in Oct. 2012, the series made its North American debut in July on Acorn TV. This combo set includes the DVD and Blu-ray formats of the first two mysteries: Bad Debts and Black Tide. Called “a terrific writer; sharp, funny and ambitious” by NPR’s Fresh Air from WHYY, crime writer Peter Temple has won numerous awards for his novels. (Blu-ray/DVD 2-Disc Combo Set)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot Series 7 & 8 (DVD, Blu-ray) – The fan favorite returns with four feature-length mysteries which are newly remastered and in original U.K. broadcast order. David Suchet stars as Agatha Christie’s mustachioed mystery-solver alongside Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings, Philip Jackson (Little Voice) as Chief Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon. Brimming with opulent 1930s period details and pitch-perfect performances, these lavish adaptations look better than ever in this remastered edition. ITV Studios’ Poirot has aired on ITV1 in the U.K. since 1989 and on PBS and A&E in the U.S. The episodes from series 7 and 8 debuted in 2000-02. The Mysteries: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Lord Edgware Dies, Murder in Mesopotamia, and Evil Under the Sun. (2-disc Blu-ray, 2-disc DVD)

Oct. 15:

The Fall Series 1 (DVD Debut) – “A Silence of the Lambs-style game of wits.” (Mail) and “Addictive and provocative...the closest that television has come to capturing the taut alchemy of Prime Suspect” (The Daily Beast) – Emmy® and Golden Globe winner Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Bleak House, The Crimson Petal and the White) stars in the new BBC thriller. Written by Allan Cubitt (Murphy’s Law, Prime Suspect 2), the series follows DSI Stella Gibson, a steely detective on the trail of a serial killer stalking the streets of Belfast. When it debuted on the BBC in May 2013, The Fall was the highest-rated drama premiere in eight years for BBC Two. Gillian Anderson smolders as a British detective summoned to Belfast to solve a high-profile murder. She quickly recognizes the signs of a serial killer, but the culprit (Jamie Dornan, Once Upon a Time, Marie Antoinette) has already targeted his next victim. Over five engrossing episodes, this psychological thriller follows both the hunter and the hunted as they attempt to outmaneuver each other in “an intriguing game of cat and mouse” (The Sunday Times). (DVD 2-Disc set, 5 episodes)

The Pallisers: 40th Anniversary Edition – “In the grand tradition of The Forsyte Saga and Upstairs, Downstairs…Powerfully addictive”(TIME) – Set in the palatial country houses and grand Mayfair salons of mid-Victorian England, the classic 1970s PBS series has captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Featuring all 26 episodes of the addictive British drama, the sprawling BBC saga of wealth, passion, and power chronicles 20 years in the life of an aristocratic dynasty moving through high society in the heyday of Queen Victoria’s reign. Based on Anthony Trollope’s six "political" novels—called the finest sequence of fiction ever written about British Parliamentary life—this adaptation by contemporary British novelist Simon Raven (Alms for Oblivion), stars Emmy®-winner Susan Hampshire (The Forsyte Saga, The First Churchills) and Philip Latham (Number 10), with an outstanding supporting cast. The outstanding cast also features Jeremy Irons (The Borgias), Derek Jacobi (Cadfael, The King’s Speech), and Anthony Andrews (Brideshead Revisited). (DVD 8-Disc Set)

David Starkey’s Music & Monarchy (U.S. Debut) – “Magnificent” (The Telegraph) – Cambridge-educated historian Dr. David Starkey (Monarchy), a foremost authority on the British Crown, explores the impact of the British monarchy on renowned composers throughout the centuries, from the reigns of Henry V through Elizabeth II. Broadcast on BBC Two in July 2013, the four episodes are available to U.S. audiences for the first time. Each episode is lavishly scored, from famous melodies to forgotten treasures and works of public pageantry to songs composed for private enjoyment. Over 40 live recordings include music by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Henry Purcell, George Frideric Handel, Edward Elgar, and William Walton. All are performed in the spectacular locations where the monarchs first heard them: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the chapel of King’s College at Cambridge, and more. (DVD 2-disc set)

The Dark Ages: An Age of Light (U.S. Debut) – “Enlightening and entertaining” (The Sunday Times) – British art critic Waldemar Januszczak (Every Picture Tells a Story) hosts this four-part documentary tracing the development of art and architecture during the early medieval period, demonstrating that the “Dark Ages” produced masterpieces around the world. Broadcast on BBC4 in Nov. 2012, the DVD 2-disc set features four episodes available to U.S. audiences for the first time. (DVD 2-Disc Set)

Coming up in late Oct and Nov:

Line of Duty Series 1, Masters of Money, House of Eliott Complete Collection, Agatha Christie’s Poirot Series 9 and 10, Murdoch Mysteries Season 6, and Photo: A History From Behind the Lens


Acorn’s and Athena’s DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from Acorn Media at (888) 870-8047 or and  Select series are streaming at Acorn TV, the first British TV-focused streaming service, at

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

GREAT WORLD OF SOUND -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review was originally posted at in 2007.)

At first, I thought this was going to be some boring documentary about music.  Or worse, a boring docudrama about the music industry.  So, when GREAT WORLD OF SOUND (2007) turned out to be a semi-mockumentary-style comedy-drama about con men who bilk starry-eyed amateur musicians out of their money, I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back to enjoy it for what it was.

Martin (Pat Healy, MAGNOLIA, PEARL HARBOR) is a nebbishy out-of-work introvert who lives with his artsy-craftsy girlfriend Pam (Rebecca Mader).  He attends a seminar in which applicants are to be trained as "record producers" who seek out and sign new talent for an outfit called Great World of Sound.  After partnering up with the brash, outgoing Clarence (Kene Holliday), the pair hit the road and start auditioning aspiring musical artists in motel rooms, with the promise of getting their music recorded at the GWS studio in Memphis.

The catch is that the artist must put up 30% of the $10,000 recording costs up front, preferably in cash.  And the smarmy, seedy guys who run GWS, Shank (John Baker) and Layton (Robert Longstreet), instruct their employees to sign everyone they can regardless of talent, or distinct lack thereof.  It gradually dawns on Martin that he's part of a "song sharking" scam, sparking an inner conflict that pits his need for gainful employment against his conscience. 

Pat Healy gives a subtle, internalized performance as Martin, while Kene Holliday's smooth-talking Clarence is all boundless energy and bluster.  He wholeheartedly embraces this money-making opportunity regardless of the damage it may do to others, not because he's heartless, but because it's his only available means of bettering himself after a lifetime of hardship.  I've never seen Holliday in a role this good--in fact, I think the only things I've ever seen him in were "Carter Country" and "Matlock"--and he makes the most of it.  Baker and Longstreet are wonderfully sleazy as their GWS bosses, embodying the essence of smoothly deceptive, informercial-style hucksterism. 

The main joy of watching GREAT WORLD OF SOUND, though, is the parade of mainly-horrible musical acts, most of whom seem so authentic that you'd swear they were real people off the street.  Which, in fact, most of them are, having answered an ad placed by director/co-writer Craig Zobel (inventor of "Strongbad"), who recorded them with hidden cameras and used the ones who later consented to appear in the film.  (My favorite is a girl group called "Cockpit" who dress in sexy stewardess outfits, but that's just me.)  It's a motley succession of musical misfits--you never know what you're going to see next.  And when Healy and Holliday, in character, sweet-talk these actual people into agreeing to cough up hundreds or thousands of dollars for some nebulous promise of stardom, you can see just how effective these scams are in real life.

Martin and Clarence, of course, pretend that they're all so great that only a few thousand bucks of their own money lies between them and superstardom.  But when a genuinely talented young black girl named Kendra sings a self-penned song called "The New National Anthem" that touches Martin's heart, he invests a chunk of his own money toward getting her into the recording studio.  This turns out to be a disaster when Martin and Clarence pay a visit to the GWS studio in Memphis and discover what a low-rent, dead-end operation the whole thing really is.

The capper comes when they audition a woman named Gloria (Tricia Paoluccio) who knocks their socks off with her beautiful voice and poignant lyrics.  Clarence wants to go in for the kill but Martin just can't handle the guilt anymore, sending her away.  This sparks a volatile blow-up between the partners, and Martin, stuck in a faroff city with an empty wallet and no ticket home, decides to seek Gloria out and try to cheat her out of her dough after all.  Will he go through with it?  And will he jeopardize his relationship with Pam by succumbing to Gloria's romantic advances?  You'll just have to watch the movie and find out.

GREAT WORLD OF SOUND is a non-jokey comedy that lets us appreciate the humor in its situations by presenting them with a subtle and low-key realism that rarely rings false.  The drama comes naturally from these same situations with nary a change in tone and, ultimately, is surprisingly downbeat.  While this movie didn't blow me away or anything, I got much more than I expected out if it and didn't feel as though I'd been scammed by sleazy Hollywood hucksters into investing my time in something that wasn't worth watching.

Buy it at


Monday, August 26, 2013

"Lion of the Desert" and "The Message" Blu-Rays Coming November 12th From Anchor Bay

Courage. Destiny. History. To some, these are but mere words. For a rare few, they are just beginning of a heroic journey towards fulfilling a greater purpose. 

On November 12th, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Trancas International Films present two Moustapha Akkad epics making their U.S. high-definition debut: The Message and The Lion of the Desert. Featuring some of Hollywood’s greatest stars, including Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, Oliver Reed, John Gielgud and Irene Papas, The Message and The Lion of the Desert Blu-rays™ will both be available for an SRP of $19.99 each.  Pre-book for both titles is October 16th.  

Beginning in 7th century Mecca, The Message tells the conflict between its powerful leaders and Muhammad, who attacks the greed and cruelty rife in this profligate community. After a revelation from God, Muhammad takes up arms against Mecca. Muhammad came to be known as the prophet, the servant, the bearer of good tidings... he unified Arabia under one religion, one God, preaching The Message.

The Lion of the Desert begins in 1929:  Benito Mussolini (Steiger) has been at war with Bedouin patriots for decades, the point of contention being the Italian colonization of Libya. Mussolini has appointed General Rodolfo Graziani (Reed) as governor to Libya, confident that he can crush the rebellion.  However, Omar Mukhtar (Quinn) – a teacher and humanist, yet skilled in desert warfare – has assumed leadership of the resistance.  Led by Mukhtar, the Bedouin troops fight on horseback, using guerrilla tactics against the formidable forces of the Italian Army.   

The Message Blu-ray™
Genre:              Historical Epic/Drama
Rating:              PG
Languages:       English
Format:            Widescreen 1.78:1
Audio:              5.1 DTSHD-MA
Year:                1976
SRP:                $19.99
Street Date:      November 12, 2013
Pre-Book:        October 16, 2013
Length:             171 minutes
UPC:                013132612454
Cat#:                BD61245

The Lion Of The Desert Blu-ray™
Genre:              Historical Epic/Drama
Rating:              PG
Languages:       English
Format:            Widescreen 1.78:1
Audio:              5.1 DTSHD-MA
Year:                1980
SRP:                $19.99
Street Date:      November 12, 2013
Pre-Book:        October 16, 2013
Length:             156 minutes
UPC:                013132612430
Cat#:                BD61243


"Silent But Deadly" With Jason Mewes Slashing Up DVD Sept. 24

It’s Slaughter Time!

"Silent but Deadly"

Slashing Up DVD & VOD Sept. 24th

LOS ANGELES — Sept. 1, 2013 — For Immediate Release — An outsider seeks revenge when his pet goat ends up as the daily lunch special in Silent but Deadly, slashing up DVD and VOD Sept. 24 from Inception Media Group.

Introverted loner Thomas Capper (Jason Mewes, Clerks I & II, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Mallrats) prefers the company of his beloved goat, Liza, to that of people … and he’d do anything for her.

When a Hollywood film crew starts shooting on location in the countryside of his small town, the cooperative and mild-mannered Thomas – a man of very few words – lands a gig as the director’s assistant.

But when Liza ends up as lunch for the crew, he embarks on a merciless killing spree to avenge his dearly departed pet’s death … and has a few choice words for his victims.
Silent but Deadly is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (1.78:1) and 5.1 digital surround sound.

About Inception Media Group
Inception Media Group, LLC is based in Los Angeles and is a diversified media company specializing in the production, acquisition and distribution of motion pictures and other filmed entertainment across all media platforms and channels of distribution. Inception Media Group's management team has extensive relationships with exhibitors, retailers, distributors and technology companies, enabling the Company to maximize the services performed on behalf of its content partners. The company boasts a catalog of approximately 100 filmed entertainment properties and over 2,500 hours of digital content encompassing feature films, episodic television series, documentaries and special interest programming. More information is available at

Silent but Deadly
Inception Media Group
Genre:  Horror/Thriller
Not Rated
Format:  DVD Only
Running Time:  Approx. 81 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price:  $26.98
Pre-Order Date:  August 20, 2013
Street Date:  September 24, 2013
Catalog #:  IMG1248DVD
UPC Code:  #815300011751

Buy it at

Sunday, August 25, 2013

WAR OF THE PLANETS -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: Since this review was first posted at in 2005, the film has undergone more name changes--from its original title of TERRARIUM to WAR OF THE PLANETS and, in the U.K., LOST VOYAGER and EXODUS.)

"What's it doing?  WHAT'S IT DOING?"
"It's devouring her, Robert."

After crash-landing on an unknown planet, a crew of space colonists awaken from suspended animation to find that a hairy, carniverous beast has entered the crippled ship and is breaking into their cryo-chambers one by one, dragging them away.  Unable to move until their bodies overcome the effects of their 15-year sleep, they are little more than a human buffet.  Or, as one of the characters aptly puts it:  "We're the goodies behind the glass."

Thus begins WAR OF THE PLANETS (2004), an extremely low-budget thriller (shot on 16mm) written and directed by Mike Conway, who also photographed, edited, and scored in addition to playing one of the astronauts.  The credits are filled with various other Conways and also reveal that several of the lead actors took part in set construction, camerawork, still photography, etc.  Sheila Conway, who plays "Nicole", doubled as one of the mysterious aliens that also inhabit the planet.

The beast, who resembles a man in a Halloween gorilla costume, returns every five hours or so for a fresh victim.  The helpless astronauts struggle to revitalize their long-dormant bodies between attacks by doing isometric exercises as each character takes advantage of the opportunity to fill us in on their backstories, which are pretty standard -- the captain lost his family while gaining the stars, Nicole's dreams were the ticket out of her small hometown, Kim entered the space program after "an overdose, a suicide attempt, and a stint in the psyche ward..."  (Okay, maybe they're not all that standard.) 

During these scenes the cast gets to act from the neck up a la Richard Dreyfuss in WHOSE LIFE IS IT, ANYWAY?, with varying degrees of skill.  None of them are really bad, though -- the performances range from passable to pretty good, and the characters are likable enough to sustain interest.

When the creature inevitably returns, there is a fair amount of suspense as the crew waits to see who is next on the menu.  Noticing that the first three victims have been women, and figuring that a colony bereft of females might be at a bit of a disadvantage in the procreation department, some of the men valiantly start thrashing around and hollering to attract attention to themselves. 
But suicidal Kim will have none of that, and screams:  "Leave him alone, Sasquatch!  Come and get me, you hairy bastard!" and "It's me you want, you son of a bitch!"  I won't reveal what happens next, but let's face it -- if you find yourself in a monster movie, perhaps those are not the best things to say to the monster.

Eventually, however, the survivors finally regain their motor skills and manage to put a locked door between themselves and the voracious beast.  Later they are able to subdue him as well, at the cost of more lives -- but an autopsy reveals that he hasn't been eating them after all.  So why did he abduct them one by one?  Where has he been taking them? 

The mystery deepens when the astronauts venture from the ship to discover that it is surrounded by an impenetrable glasslike barrier, and their night-vision goggles reveal strange alien beings creeping around in the darkness beyond.  The most likely conclusion reached by the captain and what's left of his crew is that they are the subjects of some ghastly experiment -- but at this point, the only thing they know for sure is that they must somehow escape from the barrier and strike back at the aliens with whatever means they have available. 

Obviously, it's reasonable to assume that a movie called WAR OF THE PLANETS might contain elements similar to films like WAR OF THE WORLDS or BATTLE OF THE PLANETS, with entire civilizations waging spectacular war against one another, but what it all boils down to in the end is this small skirmish between the space colonists and the aliens in a remote location near Las Vegas.  (The original title was TERRARIUM.) 

The filmmakers do their best with a very low budget (originally $27,000, but with added special effects reportedly donated free of charge by former STAR TREK:VOYAGER and BABYLON 5 visual effects artists who became fans of the movie during a two-week run at a Las Vegas theater!), and despite the cardboard sets, videogame-level special effects, an uneven cast of volunteer actors, and some unintentionally amusing dialogue ("Your hair looks the same whether it has cryo-fluid in it or not" "That's what they tell me"), it's sort of a fun movie to watch if you're in the right mood. But I'd suggest renting WAR OF THE PLANETS before adding it to your permanent DVD collection or presenting it to that special someone on their birthday.  It's no ROCKETSHIP XM.

Buy it at

Here's our two-part interview with Mike Conway:
Part One
Part Two


Saturday, August 24, 2013


Sometimes it seems as though the TV people make a show just for me, and AMC's "The Walking Dead" is one of those shows.  So the release of the 5-disc DVD set THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON means one thing--another marathon viewing session that doesn't end until my bloodshot eyes have watched every last episode. 

This is the good stuff as far as I'm  concerned--a continuing zombie apocalypse series that follows a particular group of disparate characters as they struggle to survive in a world  increasingly overrun by reanimated corpses hungry for human flesh.  Writer-director George Romero created this world in 1968 with his notorious classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and, with wildly varying degrees of success, filmmakers have been riffing on the same premise ever since. 

But it was filmmaker Frank Darabont (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GREEN MILE) who gave us the first zombie serial and made it one of the most riveting and addictive shows on television.  Even with his unfortunate departure (due mainly to budget disputes with AMC, he told TV Guide) the show continues to keep me helplessly hooked.  It's as though that first group of people in Romero's seminal film managed to survive and attempt to carve out a life for themselves in the world of the dead.

Here, it's former Georgia state trooper Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) reluctantly leading a ragtag assortment of weary survivors including his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), pregnant with a child whose father might be either Rick or his late partner Shane (Jon Bernthal ), and his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), a mixed-up kid for whom blowing away zombies on a daily basis might not be conducive to a healthy mental attitude.

Last season found our heroes seeking shelter in a pastoral setting that seemed deceptively zombie-free--the isolated farm of aged veterinarian Hershel (Scott Wilson, IN COLD BLOOD) and his daughters Maggie and Beth (Lauren Cohan, Emily Kinney).  When a herd of zombies showed up to end their idyll in a flesh-eating free-for-all,  they were forced to flee once again. 

Season three finds them setting up housekeeping within the walls of an abandoned prison, giving us a situation not unlike DAWN OF THE DEAD with its fortified shopping mall.  But there are still zombies roaming the vast network of corridors, along with a hidden gang of live convicts who will themselves pose a danger to the main group. 

This lends the show a constant air of sustained tension that frequently erupts into the usual gore-drenched action setpieces.  It also causes Rick to display an increasingly coldblooded and ruthless attitude in dealing with any threats to his family and friends, with sometimes shocking results. 

The ever-present irony of the series,  of course,  is that the biggest threat against them often comes not from the walking dead,  but from the living.  In season three,  this is demonstrated in no uncertain terms when we discover a nearby community of survivors led by a charismatic Pied Piper known as "The Governor" (David Morrissey). 

Their small but well-fortified town seems a haven of peace and security, but beneath that fascade is an endless wealth of corruption and madness that I found wonderfully entertaining as each layer of The Governor's outward sanity gets peeled away for our viewing pleasure. 

Needless to say, he'll eventually declare war on our heroes who are holed up behind the walls of the prison and,  with his superior  firepower and military-trained soldiers, it won't be pretty--especially with the living dead waiting to close in on every side.  Complicating things is the reappearance of last season's gun-toting alpha babe, Andrea (Laurie Holden), currently under The Governor's seductive spell, and her warrior-woman friend Michonne (Danai Gurira), who wields a samurai sword and leads two defanged zombie pets on chain-leashes. 

The dramatic possibilities inherent in all of this are nicely fleshed out,  so to speak, especially when we find out what kind of scientific experiments The Governor's mild-mannered toady Milton (Dallas Roberts, THE SHADOW PEOPLE, THE RIVER WHY) is conducting on the living dead and why (with shades of Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD).  The romance between Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Hershel's headstrong daughter Maggie continues and is surely one of television's most blood-drenched courtships.  Other soap-opera-type aspects of the group's intimate interactions pick up where they left off last season and keep things percolating between "walker" attacks.

Perhaps best of all, however, is the return of one of season one's most vivid and frightening characters--none other than the great Michael Rooker (HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER) as the ever-popular uber-redneck, Merle.  What he gets up to in dealing with both sides of the upcoming war and how his return affects his little brother Darryl (Norman Reedus, BLADE II,  MESKADA)--who has been acting more and more human while removed from Merle's evil influence--will give this season some of its most scintillating moments. 

But with it all,  there's always the threat of being attacked and overrun by those ever-present ambulatory corpses who are determined to eat anything with a heartbeat.  THE WALKING DEAD doesn't shy away from the buckets of gore that we've come to expect, whether done with good old-fashioned practical effects or, more and more lately, passable but not always convincing CGI.  Thankfully, the writing and SPFX teams keep coming up with new ways to gross us out, which gives those scenes in which familiar characters meet a gruesome demise even greater impact.

The DVD set from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Surround 2.0 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include eight featurettes,  audio commentaries for five episodes, and deleted scenes. 

While there isn't a single killer moment to match last season's "Sophia reveal", season three of "The Walking Dead" nevertheless gives us a mind-numbing succession of powerful,  disturbing, and often emotionally devastating situations and images that can only be possible when a premise this outlandish is convincingly realized.  Although it doesn't come to a relatively satisfying conclusion the way the previous season did, THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON hits the highway running and never allows the drama and suspense to let up until the last skull is splattered. 

Buy it at
Blu-Ray Limited Edition

1st season review

2nd season review

4th season review

5th season review


Thursday, August 22, 2013

"FOYLE’S WAR" -- A New War, A New Enemy

Premieres on MASTERPIECE Mystery! on PBS on September 15, 22, and 29

Streams on Acorn TV beginning Sept. 16, 23, and 30

Set 7 debuts on DVD & Blu-ray from Acorn on Sept. 24 with nearly two hours of bonus features

Silver Spring, MD; August 21, 2013 — Hailed “Like a gift from the gods” (The New York Times) and “A triumph from start to finish” (The Wall Street Journal), FOYLE’S WAR returns this September with three new feature length mysteries available on television, streaming, and home video. One of PBS’s most popular and highly acclaimed programs, Foyle’s War premieres its new season on MASTERPIECE Mystery! on PBS on Sept. 15, 22, and 29. RLJ Entertainment’s proprietary digital channel Acorn TV, the first British TV focused streaming service in North America at www.Acorn.TV, will offer each new episode the day after it airs on PBS, as well as all previous episodes for catch-up viewing.

Additionally, the new episodes debut on DVD and, for the first time, Blu-ray from Acorn on Sept. 24; featuring the complete U.K. broadcast edition and nearly two hours of bonus features, which includes a recap of Sets 1-6; four behind-the-scenes featurettes (86 min.); introductions by writer & creator Anthony Horowitz (15 min.), and more ($49.99 each, The trailer for the new season is available at Acorn, an RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: RLJE), is already in development on another season as well.

As the series returns, World War II is over, but the Cold War simmers in 1946 London. DCS Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) has retired from police work when Britain’s secret intelligence service compels him to join its ranks. Reunited with his former colleague, newlywed Sam Wainwright (Honeysuckle Weeks), Foyle faces new—but no less deadly—threats in the world of spies and counterintelligence.

RLJ Entertainment Chief Executive Officer Miguel Penella said, “Since acquiring Foyle’s War in Nov. 2010, we have been working closely with its creators to develop these new episodes. In these three gripping mysteries, Christopher Foyle makes a natural transition from policing during World War II to intelligence gathering during the Cold War. We’re thrilled to offer these exciting new episodes across several platforms (broadcast, digital, and home video), so consumers can watch them whenever and however they like.”

Combining uncompromising historical accuracy with compelling, character-driven murder mysteries, this enormously popular, award-winning British series has won critical acclaim and undying viewer loyalty since its premiere on ITV in 2002 and PBS in 2003. Set 7 guest stars include Ellie Haddington (Life Begins), Tim McMullan (The Woman in Black), Jeremy Swift (Oliver Twist), Rupert Vansittart (Holy Flying Circus), and Daniel Weyman (Great Expectations) as Sam’s husband. Foyle’s War was created by Anthony Horowitz, and the executive producer is Jill Green.

The Mysteries:

The Eternity Ring—Returning from America, Foyle gets drawn into an MI5 investigation of a Russian spy ring in which Sam, his former driver, has been implicated.

The Cage—Foyle’s inquiry into the deaths of several Russian defectors leads him to a mysterious military facility.

Sunflower—Foyle is charged with looking into assassination attempts against an ex-Nazi defector under MI5’s protection.


*Broadcast: MASTERPIECE Mystery! on PBS – Sept. 15, 22, and 29

*Streaming: Acorn TV at www.Acorn.TV – All 22 previous episodes available Sept. 1 with new episodes debuting the day after their PBS broadcast.

*Home Video: DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 24, 2013 - Three mysteries, approx. 274 min., plus bonus - SDH subtitles

Blu-ray 2-Disc Set (SRP: $49.99) ISBN 978-1-59828-993-0/DVD 3-Disc Boxed Set: (SRP: $49.99) ISBN 978-1-59828-992-3

An RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand, Acorn specializes in the best of British television on DVD/Blu-ray. 2013 releases include: Jack Irish starring Guy Pearce, BBC’s The Syndicate, The Fall starring Gillian Anderson, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Doc Martin Special Collection, Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect and Smiley’s People on Blu-ray, Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently, and more episodes from George Gently, New Tricks, Murdoch Mysteries, and Midsomer Murders. Acorn’s DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from Acorn at (888) 870-8047 or Acorn TV, the first British TV-focused streaming service, streams select series at www.Acorn.TV, including the upcoming U.S. premieres of Doc Martin, Series 6 and Murdoch Mysteries, Season 6.

RLJ Entertainment, Inc. (NASDAQ: RLJE) is a premier independent licensee and distributor of entertainment content and programming in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia with over 5,300 exclusive titles.  RLJE is a leader in numerous genres via its owned and distributed brands such as Acorn (British TV), Image (feature films, stand-up comedy), One Village (urban), Acacia (fitness), Slingshot (faith), Athena (documentaries), Criterion (art films) and Madacy (gift sets).  These titles are distributed in multiple formats including DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download, digital streaming, broadcast television (including satellite and cable), theatrical and non-theatrical.

Via its relationship with Agatha Christie Limited, a company that RLJE owns 64% of, RLJE manages the intellectual property and publishing rights to some of the greatest works of mystery fiction, including stories of the iconic sleuths Miss Marple and Poirot.  And through its direct-to-consumer business, RLJE has direct contacts and billing relationships with millions of consumers.

RLJE leverages its management experience to acquire, distribute, and monetize existing and original content for its many distribution channels, including its nascent branded digital subscription channels, and engages distinct audiences with programming that appeals directly to their unique viewing interests.  RLJE has proprietary e-commerce web sites for the Acorn and Acacia brands, and owns the recently launched Acorn TV digital subscription service.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anchor Bay Entertainment Brings Back the Gangster's Paradise -- "Magic City: The Complete Second Season" on Blu-Ray and DVD November 5th

“Spicy, rat-pack era crime drama” – TV Guide



 Three-Disc Set Contains All 8 Episodes and Bonus Features!

Beverly Hills, CA – For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the dark and dangerous second season of the acclaimed Starz Original Miami mob series “MAGIC CITY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” on a three-disc Blu-ray™ and DVD set November 5th.  From creator/writer and executive producer Mitch Glazer (The Recruit, Scrooged), executive producer Geyer Kosinski (Changeling, The Astronaut Farmer), co-executive producers Fred Berner (Pollock) and Colin Callender (“The White Queen”) comes all 8 intense new episodes of the steamy drama, plus some very cool bonus features. SRP is $54.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $44.98 for the DVD.  Pre-book is October 9th.

“MAGIC CITY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” begins as Ike Evans risks everything in a life and death battle to rid his Miramar Playa Hotel of the mob and Ben “The Butcher” Diamond. Ike’s dangerous plan to defeat Ben takes Ike from Havana’s glamorous casinos to dealings with a new devil – Ben’s boss in the Chicago Outfit. Ike’s wife Vera gets a second chance at her former dancing glory, while sons Stevie and Danny drift farther from Ike – Stevie toward the power and rewards of Ben’s dark world, Danny into the moral righteousness of State’s Attorney Jack Klein. Changes in Castro’s Cuba ripple to the shores of Miami Beach, and a new world order begins to tear the Evans family apart. Even if Ike’s long-shot gamble to take back his hotel succeeds, will the price of victory be too high?

Bonus Features:

    The Gamble For Havana                   
    The Criminal Element           
    Tales From The Underbelly              
    Magic City Style                   
    The Music That Makes Magic                                                            

 “MAGIC CITY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” Stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, Texas Killing Fields), Golden Globe® nominee Danny Huston (Hitchcock), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), Jessica Marais (“Packed to the Rafters”), Steven Strait (City Island), Christian Cooke (Cemetery Junction), Kelly Lynch (“The L Word”) and are joined this season by James Caan (The Godfather), Esai Morales (“NYPD Blue”), rapper Rick Ross and Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks”).

“MAGIC CITY: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” is here to heat things up in November with a scorching mix of glitz, grit and the darker side of Miami mob life in a season that unflinchingly follows the loss of one man’s dream…and his soul.

Street Date:                 November 5, 2013    
Pre-book:                     October 9, 2013
Cat. #:                         BD60327
UPC:                           01313 26032-7 8
Run Time:                   411 Minutes
Rating:                        Not Rated
SRP:                            $54.99
Format:                        Widescreen Presentation 1.78:1
Audio:                         English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish Mono
Subtitles:                     English SDH and Spanish              

Street Date:                 November 5, 2013    
Pre-book:                     October 9, 2013
Cat. #:                         ST60326
UPC:                           01313 26032-6 1
Run Time:                   411 Minutes
Rating:                        Not Rated
SRP:                            $44.98
Format:                        Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation 1.78:1
Audio:                         English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Mono
Subtitles:                     English SDH and Spanish       

Buy it at

Saturday, August 17, 2013

KREATING KARLOFF -- DVD review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at back in 2006.)

Here's an idea--if you want to be cast in the lead role of a Boris Karloff biopic that Universal Studios isn't even making, just film your own elaborate screen test and submit it for their approval.  If all goes according to plan, this will prompt the studio bigwigs to (a.) start production on a Boris Karloff biopic, and (b.) cast you as Boris Karloff.  Simple, right?

Well, that's exactly what I was planning to do until Conor Timmis beat me to it.  Drat!  In the hour-long documentary KREATING KARLOFF (2006), actor Timmis goes to great lengths to show that he means business when it comes to playing the immortal horror star.  First, he gets thirty-year makeup veteran Norman Bryn (CLOVERFIELD) to transform him into two of Karloff's greatest characters, the Mummy and the Frankenstein Monster.  Then he assembles a cast and crew to help him duplicate certain scenes from each film, shooting in black-and-white HD on sets that look as good as his low budget will allow.  After that, the rest is up to him, and he acquits himself admirably.

There's a lot here that will appeal greatly to Karloff fans.  We see Bryn skillfully applying those famous makeups on Timmis using many of the same painstaking methods employed by the original Universal makeup genius, Jack Pierce.  Then we watch Timmis at work, paying tribute to Karloff through his reenactments of key scenes from THE MUMMY and FRANKENSTEIN.  He's of slighter build than Karloff and there's not that much of a facial resemblance, but his talent and enthusiasm for the project make up for this.  And judging from the frequent interview clips with various cast and crew, this enthusiasm for the unique and fun project was infectious.

Filling in for Zita Johann in the MUMMY scenes is a vivacious blonde actress named Liesl Ehardt, who, as fate would have it, is a distant relative of Karloff's original co-star and even bears a resemblance to her when dressed in period costume.  These scenes, while much less elaborately staged than the originals, manage to capture much of their mood and style.  Especially effective is Timmis' recreation of that famous closeup of Karloff as the sinister Ardeth Bay, his piercing eyes leering into the lens.  Later in the FRANKENSTEIN segment, his embodiment of the Monster duplicates some of the pantomimed movements that Karloff used to both chill the blood and pluck the heartstrings.  The scene in which the Monster clutches desperately for a ray of sunlight is represented, as well as his chain-ripping jailhouse escape in the sequel, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. 

The DVD comes with a booklet featuring a detailed recap of Karloff's life and career, with several interesting photographs.  Extras include bloopers (not very bloopery, really--more like behind-the-scenes stuff), a music video for heavy metal group Not For Nothing's "Frankenstein" which is heard during the closing credits, the short film "Booth" in which Timmis portrays Abraham Lincoln's assassin, and a terrific three-minute adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West: Re-Animator" entitled "Re-Animator: 1942."  Derek Meinecke is a great Herbert West and, with a little polish, this would've made a perfect segment of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery." 

As a bonus bonus, we get Gary Fierro's creepy 2008 Lovecraft short "Pickman's Model" (with Timmis as Richard Upton Pickman), along with its own making-of featurette and a look at Norman Bryn applying the Pickman makeup--basically, almost everything that was included in the PICKMAN'S MODEL disc that we reviewed previously.

I don't know how likely Timmis actually thinks it is that KREATING KARLOFF will jump-start Universal into doing a Karloff biography and then casting him in the lead instead of Hugh Jackman, Leonardo diCaprio, or Jack Black.  At any rate, one gets the impression that his main intent here is to create a reverent tribute to the legendary actor that will spark renewed interest in his films, and to share the fun of doing so with the viewer.  With this entertaining and unusual documentary, he seems to have succeeded on both counts.

Read our interview with Conor Timmis HERE.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

"James Dean Ulimate Collector's Edition" Out On Blu-ray November 5th

James Byron Dean--February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955

James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition [East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant] the Actor’s Only Films and All for Warner Bros., Now Remastered for their Blu-ray™ debut Nov. 5

BURBANK, Calif., August 6, 2013 — When he died in 1955 at the age of 24 in a car crash, James Dean was mourned by millions of fans throughout the world. Despite only making three films – all of them for Warner Bros. – Dean became one of Hollywood ’s most spectacular stars, and 50 years later still remains an internationally compelling force, an iconic image, and a cult favorite of timeless fascination.

On November 5, Warner Home Video will debut East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant (a George Stevens production), remastered Blu-ray as the James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition – a limited and numbered six-disc set that boasts three feature-length documentaries about Dean’s life including James Dean Forever Young, narrated by Martin Sheen; American Masters James Dean Sense Memories and George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey.  Packaged in a double-wide gift set, the collection also contains a 48-page photo book with behind-the-scene images and rare insight into each film. The Ultimate Collector’s Edition will sell for $99.98 SRP; each film will also be available as a stand-alone Blu-ray book for $27.98 SRP each.

All three films were 4k restorations from original camera negatives at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI). Due to color fading, the original camera negatives could no longer yield an acceptable photochemical print.

For Rebel Without a Cause, the stereo soundtrack was reconstructed from the magnetic soundtrack stripes of Cinemascope release prints. The film’s restoration was done by Warner Bros. in collaboration with The Film Foundation. Restoration funding was provided by Warner Bros., Gucci and The Film Foundation.

Details of the James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition

East of Eden (1955)

Based on John Steinbeck’s novel and directed by Elia Kazan, East of Eden is the first of three major films that make up James Dean’s movie legacy. The idol-to-be plays Cal , a wayward Salinas , California youth who vies for the affection of his hardened father (Raymond Massey) with his favored brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Playing off the haunting sensitivity of Julie Harris, Dean’s performance earned one of the film’s four Academy Award® nominations[1]. Among the movie’s stellar performers, Jo Van Fleet won the Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress (1955).

Special Features:

    Commentary by Richard Schickel
    "Forever James Dean" [1987 Documentary]
    "East of Eden : Art in Search of Life"
    Screen Tests
    Richard Davalos" [Wardrobe Test]
    "James Dean and Richard Davalos" [Wardrobe Test]

"James Dean, Richard Davalos and Julie Harris" [Wardrobe Test]

    "James Dean and Lois Smith" [Wardrobe Test]
    "Lois Smith" [Wardrobe Test]
    "James Dean and Jo Van Fleet" [Wardrobe Test]
    "Jo Van Fleet" [Wardrobe Test]
    "Costumes and Production Design" [Wardrobe Test]
    Deleted Scenes
    3/9/1955 NYC Premier

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

In one of the most influential performances in movie history, Dean plays Jim Stark, the new kid in town whose loneliness, frustration and anger mirrored those of postwar teens – and still reverberates 50 years later. Natalie Wood (as Jim’s girl Judy) and Sal Mineo (as Jim’s tag-along pal Plato) were Academy Award® nominees[2] for their achingly true performances. Director Nicholas Ray was also an Oscar® nominee for this landmark film which was released less than one month after Dean’s fatal car crash.

Special Features:

    Commentary By Douglas L. Rathgeb
    Documentary "James Dean Remembered" [1974 TV Special]
    Documentary "Rebel Without A Cause: Defiant Innocents"
    Dennis Hopper Interview NEW!
    Screen Tests
    Wardrobe Tests
    Deleted Scenes
    "Behind The Cameras: Natalie Wood"
    "Behind The Cameras: Jim Backus"
    "Behind The Cameras: James Dean"
    Theatrical Trailers

Giant (a George Stevens production) (1956)

Based on Edna Ferber’s best-selling family saga about a Texas family of ranchers and oilmen, Giant stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Dennis Hopper. In his final film role, Dean stars as wrangler turned oil baron Jett Rink. Directed by the legendary George Stevens, this sprawling epic received ten Academy Award® nominations[3] including a Best Actor nod for Dean and earned Stevens a win for Directing (1956).

Special Features:

    Introduction by George Stevens Jr.
    Commentary by George Stevens Jr., Ivan Moffat and Stephen Farber

·         “George Stevens: Filmmakers Who Knew Him"

Street Date: November 5, 2013
Order Due Date: October 1, 2013
Cat# 1000344422
$99.98 SRP

East of Eden Blu-ray Book
Cat# 1000339747
$27.98 SRP

Rebel Without a Cause Blu-ray Book
Cat# 1000341372
$27.98 SRP

Giant Blu-ray Book
Cat# 1000339738
$27.98 SRP

Note: All enhanced content listed above is subject to change.

Academy Awards® and Oscar® are both registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Blu-ray Disc™ and Blu-ray™ and the logos are the trademarks of Blu-ray Disc Association.

Warner Home Video Blu-ray Discs™ offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, as well as extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color and beautifully crisp sound. The format also provides a higher level of interactivity, with instant access to extra features via a seamless menu bar where viewers can enjoy features without leaving or interrupting the film.

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment's home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees, as well as directly to consumers through and WB Ultra.

About Warner Home Video
With operations in 90 international territories, Warner Home Video, a division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., commands the largest home entertainment distribution infrastructure in the global video marketplace. Warner Home Video's film library is the largest of any studio, offering top quality new and vintage titles from the repertoires of Warner Bros. Pictures, Turner Entertainment, Castle Rock Entertainment, HBO Video and New Line Cinema.

[1] 1955 (28th)          ACTOR -- James Dean

                                ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Jo Van Fleet
DIRECTING -- Elia Kazan
WRITING (Screenplay) -- Paul Osborn

[2] 1955 (28th)          ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Sal Mineo
                                ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Natalie Wood
WRITING (Motion Picture Story) -- Nicholas Ray

[3] 1956 (29th)          ACTOR -- James Dean
                                ACTOR -- Rock Hudson
                                ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Mercedes McCambridge
ART DIRECTION (Color) -- Art Direction: Boris Leven; Set Decoration: Ralph S. Hurst
COSTUME DESIGN (Color) -- Moss Mabry, Marjorie Best
DIRECTING -- George Stevens
FILM EDITING -- William Hornbeck, Philip W. Anderson, Fred Bohanan
MUSIC (Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) -- Dimitri Tiomkin
BEST MOTION PICTURE -- George Stevens and Henry Ginsberg, Producer
WRITING (Screenplay--Adapted) -- Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat

Buy it at

Saturday, August 10, 2013


(NOTE: This review originally appeared online several years ago at

I never saw the widely-reviled CATWOMAN with Halle Berry, but its director, Pitoff, who also supervised the visual effects for ALIEN:RESURRECTION and THE MESSENGER:THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC, definitely knows how to get the most out of a good screenplay as he does with DARK PORTALS:THE CHRONICLES OF VIDOCQ (2001), which he co-wrote with Jean-Christophe Grangé. The first movie to be shot on HD digital video, it looks and feels like a cross between SPIDERMAN and FROM HELL, with furious action and dark, visually-stunning atmosphere to burn.

The setting is Paris in 1830, and Gérard Depardieu (1492:CONQUEST OF PARADISE, GREEN CARD) plays tough, burly French detective Vidocq, who has been asked by the chief of police to assist in solving the mystery of two deaths by lightning. Since both victims (an arms dealer and a chemist) were important to the French military, he suspects a conspiracy. But who would have the power to harness lightning for use as a murder weapon? Vidocq's investigation points to an elusive, hooded phantom known as "The Alchemist", who wears a featureless, reflective mask made of glass. The movie opens as Vidocq tracks The Alchemist down to the lower chambers of a glass factory and they have a fierce battle that results in Vidocq falling to his doom down a flaming pit. But not before The Alchemist grants his last request and removes his mask, revealing his identity.

Vidocq's partner, Nimier (Moussa Maaskri), receives a visit from a young journalist named Etienne (Guillaume Canet), who wants to track down the killer and avenge Vidocq's death as a fitting conclusion to the biography he's been writing about him. As he follows the trail of Vidocq's own investigation, we meet the beautiful dancer/prostitute Préah (Inés Sastre), who was paid anonymously to aid in the assassination of the two lightning victims by placing her distinctive metal hair combs in their hats. Rushing to save a third man similarly marked for death, Vidocq (in one of many flashbacks throughout the film) first encounters The Alchemist and they engage in a furious battle that is thrillingly staged.

This fight scene is topped later on, however, when Vidocq discovers The Alchemist's secret lair where he is doing very bad things to several young female virgins for his own nefarious purposes. The action direction and stunts are first-rate, making great use of some incredible sets, and the shots in which the actors are replaced by CGI doubles are used sparingly and are much less obvious than in movies like SPIDERMAN or BLADE II. (And speaking of CGI, it is used to very good advantage here with several exquisite views of nineteenth-century Paris and surrounding locations.)

Etienne delves deeper into the mystery, while two of the people he questions are later visited by the killer and slashed to death (there's a fair amount of gore in this movie). He is stalked by a shadowy figure as he ventures into the dark, lurid underbelly of Paris where the case becomes mired in a morass of bizarre sexual perversion, in which the original three lightning victims were involved up to their bushy little eyebrows. It's all rather complicated and I don't want to reveal too much about it, but it's fun to watch Vidocq and Etienne trying to sort it all out.

Like FROM HELL, this movie revels in its period detail, and the production design, costumes, and visual effects are even more impressive, creating an atmosphere that is totally convincing and a joy to behold. Pitoff's direction is stylish and inventive, as are the editing and cinematography. The performances are excellent, especially from Gérard Depardieu--I never really cared that much for him as an actor before, but this role is perfect for him and I wouldn't mind seeing him play it again.

All the supporting players are fine as well, Inés Sastre in particular--she's very likable as Préah, while her beauty adds to the film's visual appeal. Moussa Maaskri as Nimier isn't very visually appealing but his gruff, surly demeanor makes him the perfect partner for Vidocq. Guillaume Canet's young journalist Etienne is a good mix of callowness and bravado as he stumbles his way along Vidocq's footsteps in search of the killer.

And then there's The Alchemist. He's one of the best movie villains of recent years, a supernaturally evil phantom who fights with a combination of magic and ass-kicking skills, and it's great to see him pitting them against Vidocq's brawny, bulldog tenacity. And at the end, when his identity is finally revealed, it's a pretty good surprise. It may not make perfect sense at first (I had to go back and think about it in order to explain what seemed to be a couple of major plot holes as a result of this revelation), but it's still cool, and it leads to a final good vs. evil confrontation that brings the story to a satisfying wrap-up. DARK PORTALS:THE CHRONICLES OF VIDOCQ is a highly-entertaining flick that I'll be watching again.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

MIDSOMER MURDERS: SET 22 -- DVD review by porfle

As fans of the Brit-TV detective series "Midsomer Murders" well know, the show's original main character, Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles), has been replaced by his younger cousin, John (Neil Dudgeon).  For those following the action via Acorn Media's DVD releases,  this momentous changeover occurred in the previous collection.  Now, with the release of MIDSOMER MURDERS: SET 22, which contains four feature-length stories on as many discs, we find the new DCI Barnaby still struggling to fit into the show even as it continues to hum along like a well-oiled machine around him.

It's still pretty much of a can't-miss setup: veteran homicide detective from the city gets assigned to cover the pastoral Midsomer County beat, where the murder rate is so high it's a wonder any of the locals manage to make it to their mailbox and back without getting run through with a pitchfork or bludgeoned to death.  It's the same sort of stuff that keeps people like Miss Marple busy, although these days there are so many detectives nosing around these picturesque little villages that it seems the citizenry must work overtime committing murders just to keep them all occupied. 

John Barnaby, fortunately,  is up to the task, as is his junior partner Detective Sergeant Ben Jones (Jason Hughes),  now the show's last remaining original character and link to the past.  DS Jones is still smarting from being passed over for his former boss' vacated job and doesn't hold the new guy in quite the elevated esteem as the old one,  which makes for a more casual (and occasionally more abrasive) relationship between the two.  With each flash of deductive brilliance,  however, DCI Barnaby continues to win over DS Jones a little at a time and earn his grudging respect. 

But as Hughes' character becomes  more prominent and well-grounded than ever, Dudgeon's Barnaby finds himself still feeling his way around for a personality to settle into.  Part of this is due to the writers inability to give him all the gravitas we expect while playing up his more humorous side to an excessive degree.  It's nice to see him being less stiff all the time while on the job, but his dour attitude has been replaced by sort of a permanently goofy look. 

Unlike former stars John Nettles and Jane Wymark,  this Barnaby and his cold-fish wife Sarah (Fiona Dolman) continue to have next to no chemistry whatsoever in the domestic scenes, which play up the homicide cop's human side but end up feeling like filler instead.  Her bossy, almost dismissive attitude is intended to supply humorous contrast between how assertive John is on the job while lapsing into a more lightheartedly submissive attitude at home, but it isn't working.  The writers need to insert some more warmth, sexual tension,  and genuine affection into this relationship, quick. 

Thankfully, however, Neil Dudgeon is a talented, likable actor who seems capable of eventually overcoming such difficulties and settling into the role while his character becomes more at home in Midsomer and on the show itself.  This Barnaby is still an outsider, but that abrasive element in his dealings with dubious locals continues to add spice to their encounters.  And seeing how twisted and corrupt these rural folk can really be underneath their veneer of normalcy, sometimes revealing the depths of their depravity at the slightest provocation, is a major reason that this series is still fun to watch.

The first story,  "The Sleeper Under the Hill", begins with the now-obligatory bizarre murder, this time of a farmer found gutted in the center of a Stonehenge-like stone circle which local druids have been using as a worship site before his announcement to plow up the entire area for planting. 

Naturally,  the druids are chief suspects, but this is cast into doubt when one of their own becomes the next victim.  The farmer's two-timing wife, who has been having an affair with her fencing instructor and stands to inherit her late husband's fortune, is also under suspicion, as is a local cop who once worked with DS Jones in their earlier days on the force.  It's a twisted, atmospheric tale with plenty of red herrings to keep us guessing.

"Night of the Stag" opens with one of those colorful village festivals--here, a May Day celebration replete with plenty of fresh-brewed apple cider--which goes sour when the vat that everyone  (including DCI Barnaby) has been drinking from is found to have a dead body floating in it.  From this nauseating beginning is launched an investigation that uncovers a darker local tradition, "Stag Night", resulting in more murders and a rash of attempted rapes which our heroes must stop before it's too late.

The shocking murder of an aged nun gets "A Sacred Trust" off to a morbid start while continuing the show's often rather curdled outlook on organized religion.  In fact, the remaining three nuns and a visiting priest who regularly hears their confessions seem just as shifty and suspicious as the village's juvenile delinquents and lowlifes, while a new character, forensic examiner Kate Wilding (Tamzin Malleson, who replaces Barry Jackson's "Dr. Bullard"), proudly announces at one point--for no particular reason--that she is "a rationalist and an atheist."  Still, it's a corker of a murder mystery no matter what side of the fence you're on as far as that goes.

The final tale, "A Rare Bird", is enlivened by the comical  antics of a group of passionate birdwatchers currently at odds with each other over one member's claim to have seen an extremely rare Ugandan bird in the nearby forest.  The forest is also host to a rash of gruesome murders which may or may not be bird-related.  Suspects include one victim's pregnant wife, who seems to have been unfaithful since, unbeknownst to her,  her late husband had gotten a vasectomy before their marriage.  As usual, there are a number of delightful twists and turns before the final revelation of the true killer. 

The four-disc DVD set from Acorn Media (Blu-Ray is 2 discs) is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and English subtitles.  As a bonus,  there's a 34-minute featurette,  "Midsomer Murders in Conversation", which includes interviews with Neil Dudgeon, Jason Hughes,  and various other members of the cast and crew.

While always a major part of the fun, of course, the "Midsomer Murders" themselves usually take a backssea to the interplay between the characters.  With MIDSOMER MURDERS: SET 22, the bits of business between the new Barnaby and a still-dubious D.S. Jones,  along with the always fascinating rogue's gallery of eccentric villagers, still provide most of the enjoyable moments.  But the show's continuing search for a handle on its lead character needs to be resolved once and for all.

Buy it at
DVD (4 discs)
Blu-Ray (2 discs)